On Charlotte

A black man refuses to stand for the National Anthem at a football game. The media and the general public erupt with insults, derogatory names, and statements regarding his commitment to his team, his country, and even whether or not he should be allowed to live in the United States.

He kneeled. During a football game. Silently.

A couple of days ago, I watched from about 300 ft. away as a protest blocked the middle of a main road in Charlotte, NC. This directly followed someone – a black man – being shot by an officer in an apartment complex and a black man being shot and killed after getting out of his car for help in Tulsa, OK.

The protests have evolved into nothing short of riots – civilians blocked off major highways, damaging police cars and the vehicles of random passer-bys. There were fires everywhere. Screaming. Pushing. Men were shot in the Epicenter (the “downtown” area of Charlotte), one by another civilian. My friend was Facetiming me and I watched our phone connection die and heard her voice get cut off abruptly. When she connected again, she had been running to avoid getting tear gassed.

They protested. After yet another case of police brutality against black people. Loudly.

I have a question: what is your suggestion? My Facebook feed is exploding with complaints over missing the National Anthem. My Facebook feed is exploding with complaints over rioting and looting stores. While I do not agree that hurting others, looting, and causing damage to property is acceptable, I want to know: what IS?

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We are discussing a population group that has been significantly oppressed for more than 300 years. Three HUNDRED. They are angry, I’m sure. They are exhausted, I know. And when this population group wants justice, we turn our backs and shake our fingers, asking them to “try another way.”

I have a question: WHAT other way? Do you know how these people can demand justice and equality without being taunted, teased, bullied, violated, even killed?

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As a white person, I have absolutely no room to explore or express what is a right or wrong way for this population group to demand equality.

They are silent, we are outraged. They are loud, we are disgusted.

Don’t you DARE tell this community how to react. Or demand equality. Or search for answers. Because they have been reacting and demanding and searching for all of their lives.

Accept diversity. Allow those that are different from you a space to talk. Listen when they ask for help. Did you read that? LISTEN. Do your research. Have compassion for others. And do not mock demands for justice because that justice has yet to be achieved. And it’s about damn time.

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I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council or the Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you and the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’ ; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season,’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Martin Luther King from his jail cell in Birmingham.

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  • It’s so crazy to think about something like this happening in my own city and my friend almost being tear-gassed. I wish every one could just get along, but alas I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    Caitlyn | http://www.collegewithcaitlyn.com

    • Savannah Ward

      I agree – I hope at some point we can all reach a point where we work together instead of taking steps backwards. Thank you for commenting!

  • OMG Savannah yes! This is something I talk about often with my African and African American friends. And they say that white people need to be talking to white people about the issues, because that group of white people that’s getting mad about someone standing or kneeling in silence during the Anthem (or do you remember when everyone forgot Beyonce was black and got mad at her for Formation and her halftime show last year with the police car?) – those white people don’t want to hear it from them and its our job as white people to educate them. Any statement, peaceful or otherwise, is too loud of uncomfortable which is a shame. your point is so accurate to me, how would you like them to demand answers? Corey Jones was shot by an off duty police officer in civilian clothes while waiting for AAA on the side of the highway after playing in a show (he was a drummer in a friend of mines band) earlier this year in my county. Just a few high way exit from where I grew up. It’s not acceptable. As someone who has spent a lot of time with both police officers, felons, and general people of different race, there needs to be a movement to understand, to hear one another, whether we agree or disagree. But its an injustice to tell people to not ask questions and not stand up for what they believe in; it’s not American. The violence on both sides needs to end.

    • Savannah Ward

      YES. White people need to talk. Specifically white males. I remember the superbowl argument and I was completely shocked. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! “But its an injustice to tell people to not ask questions and not stand up for what they believe in; it’s not American. The violence on both sides needs to end.” — YES can I plaster this on my forehead and walk around campus??

  • I cannot believe something like that is (again) happening in 2016. I thought that people would know better, but apparently, diversity is not something that is going to be accepted any time soon. It’s such a shame that we cannot all live together peacefully.

    • Savannah Ward

      I know. You would think our country would be in a better place by now. 🙁

  • I always get really upset when I read the news about things like this happening across the entire world. It’s not fair. Diversity is one of the best and most amazing thing to have and experience, but it’s also one of the hardest for people to accept. I really do hope that one day, everyone can just live in harmony with each other.

  • Sydney Power

    I really don’t know what to say, it is so saddening to watch all that is happening. Even today I feel scared to share my thoughts or talk about it because it is a very sensitive topic. I think there are many problems and I honestly don’t know where the result will happen. It just makes me so sad to see lives lost and people so angry.

  • Greta Hollar

    I’ve been out of the country for over 2 weeks and have missed a lot of what is happening in Charlotte. It makes my heart sad!

    Greta | http://www.gretahollar.com

  • Wow I’m so sorry you were in the midst of it all. Must have been heartbreaking as anything. 🙁 prayers for your city!

  • My best friend lives in Charlotte and works downtown. She said it’s been terrifying and sad 🙁

  • Adriana

    First, this whole thing makes me so sad. Seeing cities destroyed over and over is sickening. You have a great point of view and you’re such a great writer! There are two sides to every story – and politics and race aside – there is NO reason for these people to be rioting and damaging their city. Peaceful protest is one thing, destroying property is NOT ok. So sad 🙁

  • Sherry Keezer

    Totally agree. There are so many other things going on in the world to be upset about that people totally ignore. It makes me sad to see what is going on in your country.

  • This is so important! People don’t see these things as a cry of help, which it is. People need to work together to resolve this issue.
    Shaguna | gold&hearts

  • I am so impressed by your response here Savannah. I also don’t feel that I have room to tell someone else how to react because I have the privilege of not being racially discriminated against. I know if I was black I would be terrified that police injustice could happen to me or my family, and no one should have to bear that fear due to the color of their skin.

  • Savannah, you always put things in to such an incredible perspective. You are wise beyond your years. I love everything you said here. I think so many people are so quick to judge whats going on, but unless you have experienced it all first hand, you just can’t know!

  • Courtney Drew

    So many important things brought to light. I think that everything going on in this world is so sad, and it may sound so cliche but i really just hope for world peace. I hope that soon this will be over and we can finally all treat people like humans and everyone can get along and stop this violence!

    xo Courtney Drew

  • i’m sorry your city is going through this, and that we as a nation are going through this. its a terrible time. i love how you say “dont you dare tell them how to react” because how could we and we have no right to. there is a terrible wrong that desperately needs to be righted.